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How does Judaism regard emotional abuse in a marriage? (More focused form of this question.)

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closed as not a real question by Seth J, Gershon Gold, Isaac Moses Jun 21 '12 at 15:16

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Why not edit the original question? –  Seth J Jun 21 '12 at 15:02
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possible duplicate of Emotional abuse between spouses in Judaism? –  Seth J Jun 21 '12 at 15:05
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This question seems a bit broad. Is this a halacha question? A mussar question? A torts question? A gittin question? –  Isaac Moses Jun 21 '12 at 15:16
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Right now, neither this or the possible dupe are specific enough. If they both get specific enough to be re-opened and are not distinct, they'll be merged. –  Isaac Moses Jun 21 '12 at 15:19
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1 Answer 1

Let's start by saying that - duh, it's prohibited. Anyone is prohibited from ona'at devarim, wronging others verbally. Additionally the Talmud says "love your neighbor like yourself" is a guiding principle prohibiting going into a marriage likely to be one filled with contempt, so it should be a no-brainer that abusive behavior is out.

The Talmud, in the seventh chapter of Ketubot, lists a series of behaviors that would be grounds for divorce with a financial settlement favoring the wife. It's clearly describing some forms of psychologically abusive behavior.

ז,א המדיר את אשתו מליהנות לו--עד שלושים יום, יעמיד פרנס; יתר מכן, יוציא וייתן כתובה. רבי יהודה אומר

בישראל, חודש אחד יקיים; ושניים, יוציא וייתן כתובה. ובכוהנות--שניים, יקיים; ושלושה, יוציא וייתן כתובה. [ב] המדיר את אשתו שלא תטעום אחד מכל הפירות, יוציא וייתן כתובה. רבי יהודה אומר, בישראל, יום אחד יקיים; ושניים, יוציא וייתן כתובה. ובכוהנת, שניים, יקיים; ושלושה, יוציא וייתן כתובה. [ג] המדיר את אשתו שלא תתקשט באחד מכל המינים, יוציא וייתן כתובה. רבי יוסי אומר, בענייות, שלא נתן קצבה; ובעשירות, שלושים יום.

ז,ב [ד] המדיר את אשתו שלא תלך לבית אביה--בזמן שהן עימה בעיר, חודש אחד יקיים; ושניים, יוציא וייתן כתובה. ובזמן שהן בעיר אחרת--רגל אחד, יקיים; ושלושה, יוציא וייתן כתובה.

ז,ג [ה] המדיר את אשתו שלא תלך לבית האבל או לבית המשתה--יוציא וייתן כתובה, מפני שנעל בפניה; ואם היה טוען משם דבר אחר, רשאי. אמר לה, על מנת שתאמרי לאיש פלוני מה שאמרת לי, או מה שאמרתי ליך, או שתהא ממלא ומערה לאשפה--יוציא וייתן כתובה.

Should one make a vow that his wife be prohibited from getting any tangible benefit from him ... after thirty days, he must release her [from the marriage] and pay ... should prohibit her from tasting any single type of fruit ... or from wearing any single type of jewelry ... he must release her and pay ... if he prohibits her [for more than a few weeks] from visiting her family ... or attending shiva houses or weddings, he must release her and pay as he has locked her up ... if he demands "you must tell so-and-so the [deeply personal] things you told me", or "that I told you"; or [if he demands] that she repeatedly fill up a bucket and then spill it out ... he must release her and pay.

So emotional abuse certainly can be grounds for a divorce, and will affect the monetary settlement.

Traditionally, Jewish law with regards to torts is limited to actions, not words. (Though testifying in court is considered an action.) I would be obligated to pay for embarrassment for slapping someone in the face, pulling down his pants in public, or spitting on him; but the courts per se wouldn't do anything if I just called him a name (albeit a terrible one that horribly hurt him). Nonetheless, per Rabbi Warburg's article in Tradition (Spring 2012), occasionally Jewish courts have ruled that extrajudicial measures may be necessary as a matter of public policy, and have awarded damages for verbal abuse as well.

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